Adam McKay’s Hyperobject Industries and Three Uncanny Four Productions, in partnership with Sony Music Entertainment, today launched Death at the Wing, a new podcast series that focuses on the tragic intersection of basketball, politics, and socio-economics in the 1980s that led to an extraordinary number of untimely deaths of rising basketball prospects. Developed and hosted by McKay, Death at the Wing is a deep exploration of the intersection of sports and culture that began with Reaganomics. The first two episodes are available this morning.
Each docu segment focuses on one player, one tragedy, and the big forces that shaped the story. In reporting the series, McKay conducted interviews with experts, journalists, and former players, including NBA Hall of Famer Jerry West, journo and Basketball: A Love Story author Jackie MacMullan, ex-Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, professor of critical stories Dr. Todd Boyd, and The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer. They talk about this lost generation of young basketball players and the way the country was transformed in the 1980s. Death at the Wing provides an overarching narrative to the changing state of the country and the resulting impact of drug and crime policy on specific communities of color from hard-hit cities like Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, New York and more.
Death at the Wing starts with an overview of the rapidly changing NBA of the 1980s, the league’s drug policies, the impact of Reagan Administration policies on the country, specifically in cities, and the failings of the mental health care system.
“I’ve been an NBA junkie pretty much my whole life and have always been haunted by the amazing young talents we tragically lost in the 1980s into the 90s,” McKay said. “Once we dove in, it became obvious the tragic stories of these young, mostly African American men, are really the story of what happened to America over the last 40 years. A forty years that would see the NBA become a global powerhouse while the U.S. slowly came apart.”
Episode 1 – Tip Off: The Invisible Revolution
In the late 70s, the ABA, a renegade basketball league, merged with the NBA to introduce a new exciting game to Americans watching all across the country. The explosion of TV and the new attention economy was also the perfect setting for a movie-star-turned-President to start to remake American politics.
Episode 2 – Terry Furlow and the Crash After The Party
The dark side of cocaine reveals itself in the early 80s, and the NBA gains a reputation as a league full of drug addicts — just as the country is starting to scapegoat users with three simple words: “Just Say No.”
Future episodes will focus on the Len Bias Law, which sparked the decades-long War on Drugs, the shooting and murder of Chicago’s up-and-coming star Benji Wilson whom first responders labeled as a gang member, the NBA’s attitude of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell towards players’ cocaine use, the NBA’s shift to one of the most socially conscious employee bases in the U.S.
The series is executive produced by Adam McKay and Harry Nelson at Hyperobject and Laura Mayer at Three Uncanny Four. Jody Avirgan is producer and series editor. Raghu Manavalan and Brian Steele are producers.
Listeners can subscribe to Death at the Wing on all major podcast platforms..
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